The 1950s were not a period in which women had the ability to truly flourish in their independence. It was a period of time where gender roles were strictly adhered to, and anything outside of that was looked down upon with disdain. In Darren Lynn Bousman’s latest film ST. AGATHA, the viewer gets to see a glimpse into that time period and the deadly consequences forced upon a strong, independent woman who finds herself pregnant and alone.
In preparation for ST. AGATHA‘s release, I had the opportunity to speak with actress Sabrina Kern. Having been familiar with her work in Bousman’s The Tension Experience, where she played the figurehead Addison, I was excited to see her transformation from theatrical performances to that of a film’s leading lady. During our chat, we discussed everything from her first feature film role to eating fried chicken with actress Carolyn Hennesy.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Sabrina, it’s such a pleasure to speak with you today! To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about your character Mary in ST. AGATHA?
Sabrina Kern: Mary is a young woman with a troubled past who gets pregnant and is seeking help at a convent because it’s sort of her only way to go. When she gets there she notices a lot of things that aren’t what she had hoped for and then shit goes down from there.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What was it about this character that interested you in the role?
SK: I love that she’s so independent, which kind of reminds me a little bit of myself. At first, she takes care of her baby brother by taking on the mother role, and then she doesn’t want to just go with her boyfriend [when she finds out she’s pregnant] which would have been the easy way out. She is a strong-willed, independent woman and that drew me to her.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Obviously, I know you from your work with Darren Lynn Bousman on The Experiences, a theatrical immersive event. Since then you’ve transitioned from that to your first feature film role. What was the transition like and were there any struggles you faced?
SK: It was actually nice having just worked with Darren [on the Experiences] and then working with him on a film. In terms of working with him, it wasn’t a big transition at all. First of all, he’s still insane, whether it’s the Tension Experience or ST. AGATHA (laughs). That being said, he’s also a genius who has so many ideas, like 10,000 ideas go through his mind at any point, and that didn’t change from the Tension Experience to ST. AGATHA. On both sets, so to speak, he would have ideas in the moment and change things up in the moment. While I think it was probably maddening for the rest of the filmmaking crew, it was really lovely for us actors because we got to play around and try out different things, so every day was a little bit of a surprise. For me in general, being on set was definitely a different experience and a little nerve-wracking. I was questioning if I could live up to everyone else on set and I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. Then there was understanding the ins-and-outs of the set and all those little codes they speak with. I didn’t understand it at first, but eventually, I just pretended that I did (laughs).
Nightmarish Conjurings: I really loved the chemistry between your character and that of Mother Superior (played by Carolyn Hennesy). What was your experience like working alongside her?
SK: It was great! Carolyn Hennesy is terrifying, but in a great way (laughs)! The first time I met her I was definitely scared of her. Working opposite her is just so easy because she’s just so good at what she does that it’s a dream for an actor like me to just be able to work off of someone like that. We didn’t chit-chat too much while we were on set because both of us kind of did our own thing and tried to stay in character, but as soon as the weekends hit, or on our days off, we would always go do things together. We had many friend chickens together and will continue to eat fried chicken together (laughs). I love that woman.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Prior to filming did you do a lot of research into St. Agatha and/or the 1950’s?
SK: I did! There were lots of meetings with Darren and the other girls where we spoke a lot about what it was like in the 1950s, so I think a lot came out of those meetings. For me, another layer of it was seeing my voice and speech coach because I wanted to make sure that nobody could hear my Swiss accent creeping in, which always terrifies me a little bit. When I saw my voice and speech coach, she also taught me a lot about how people spoke differently in the 1950s, certain things they wouldn’t say and certain things they would say and that was honestly a really important layer for me.
Nightmarish Conjurings: To close things out, do you have any additional projects on the horizon that we should be keeping our eyes out for?
SK: I am indeed working on a potential project with Darren right now, but I can’t say too much about it. As you know, he likes to be secretive about everything, but there is something in the works for sure!
Make sure to check out ST. AGATHA when it’s released in theaters and On Demand/Digital HD February 8, 2019.